Bellator MMA makes it’s long anticipated return tomorrow night from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conneticut.
Bellator is dipping it’s toe back in the pool with a card that features seven fights, four of which are on the main card on the Paramount Network. Let’s dive into three of the key matchups for Bellator 242.
Sergio Pettis vs Ricky Bandejas
In the main event of the evening we have a bantamweight contest between Sergio Pettis (19-5) and Ricky Bandejas (13-3).
Pettis comes into this fight coming off of a win in his Bellator debut back in January. Pettis has been on the biggest stage in the sport now for about seven years. Incredibly impressive from someone who’s just about to turn 27.
Pettis has beaten guys like Joseph Benavidez in the past and he’s also been in the cage with the likes of Henry Cejudo.
Pettis has a very solid overall game. Good distance striking, and he’s very good off of his back. He’s got very good submission skills which he showed off back in January.
In the other corner you have Ricky Bandejas. Bandejas is a pretty good striker who has knockouts in all of his last four wins.
Back at Bellator 204, Bandejas became famous after he knocked out James Gallagher in impressive fashion. However, Bandejas would go on to lose two consecutive fights.
He has bounced back nicely since with back-to-back knockout victories. Bandejas does better when he’s countering aggressive fighters. He’s able to catch guys coming in with his quick counters and good power.
I expect this fight to take place on the feet. While Bandejas has good striking, I don’t favor him at all in a technical striking match with Pettis. Could Bandejas catch Pettis with something? Absolutely he could.
However, I think the fight will take place from range where I expect Pettis to do very well with kicks. Expect Bandejas to have moments, but the output and accuracy of Pettis’ shots will give him the nod here.
Prediction: Sergio Pettis by Unanimous Decision
Jordan Mein vs Jason Jackson
The co-main event of the evening features a contest between UFC veteran, Jordan Mein (31-12), and Jason “The Ass-Kicking Machine” Jackson (11-4).
Mein hasn’t fought in about two years, but he was coming off back-to-back wins in the UFC before making the jump to Bellator.
Mein has fought some of the best guys in the world from guys like Tyron Woodley to the rising Belal Muhammad. Mein has a solid overall game with good striking from a distance. He does struggle with his cardio at times.
You could make the argument that Jason Jackson belongs in the UFC. Jackson fought on Dana White’s Contender Series, but lost due to an ankle injury. Since then, Jackson has gone 4-1 with his lone loss being a split decision loss to Ed Ruth at Bellator 231.
Jackson has really good power and uses a good amount of explosion with his advances. I think that Mein’s patient style could really help out a guy like Jackson over the course of a three round fight.
I think this fight is going to go the distance. While Mein comes in with high expectations in his Bellator debut, I like Jackson to defeat him in a back and forth fight.
Prediction: Jason Jackson by Unanimous Decision
Aaron Pico vs Chris Hatley Jr.
Kicking off the main card of Bellator 242 is a featherweight contest between Aaron Pico (5-3) and Chris “Solo” Hatley Jr (8-2).
Just a few years ago, Pico was regarded as the top prospect in all of MMA. However, his career has not gone as planned so far. Being stopped three times was not part of the original plan.
Outside of his three defeats, Pico has finished all five of his wins within the first two rounds. Pico possesses great boxing with really good power. Pico has elite wrestling that he rarely uses.
Standing across from Pico will be Solo Hatley. Hatley comes into this contest coming off of a win in his Bellator debut. Hatley has pretty decent overall skills and showed a good ground game in his last outing.
Hatley has decent hands due to his athleticism, but there doesn’t appear to be a ton of polish in his striking. He also doesn’t posses incredible striking defense.
Given the skills of both fighters, I’m expecting this one to be contested on the feet. Hatley doesn’t do well with being pressured and he doesn’t have great defense.
For these reasons, I don’t think he’s going to do well with Pico. I expect Pico to fight patiently, but when the opening is there, I expect him to do what it takes to finish this one.
Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 1
Bellator 242 Outlook
Bellator is not going all out with their first card back. They have some really good fights, but they are not trying to blow the roof off the place. Seems like a very conservative effort on their part to get back in the game. However, fans should be happy because a returning Bellator just means more MMA fights for fans everywhere.